WSJ Editorial: SCOTUS Needs to Hear Alameda Case

Robert Zirkelbach
Robert Zirkelbach May 18, 2015

WSJ Editorial: SCOTUS Needs to Hear Alameda Case.

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A new editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “Bad Drug Trip in Alameda,” highlights a case currently before the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), PhRMA v. Alameda, that challenges a drug take-back program that was enacted in Alameda, CA, in 2012.

As the editorial notes, “the Alameda program requires all drug makers to fund and operate a county-wide disposal program, wherever they are headquartered in the world, as long as their products find their way into Alameda through interstate commerce.”

wsjThe editorial urges the Justices to hear the case “to prevent long-term harm to commerce and the constitutional order.” It points out that “the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive Article I power to regulate shared state markets” and says “that ought to preclude states from interfering in interstate commerce, especially by imposing protectionist policies against out-of-state businesses.”
The writers point out the slippery slope that could result if this ordinance is allowed to stand: “The difference in Alameda is that the county isn’t merely regulating products and services within its jurisdiction. Instead, the county is reaching deeply into the stream of interstate commerce at the national level, and forcing outside third parties to provide ‘free’ local benefits. On this theory, Alameda could conscript publishers in New York to collect the recycling bins if residents subscribe to their magazines, or brewers and distillers to pick up the tab for Alameda alcoholism clinics. Nearby Sonoma vintners graciously exempted, no doubt.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial follows other recent articles highlighting the case currently before the Court. An article in the Washington Free Beacon, “As Supreme Court Deliberates, Drug Take-Back Law Spreads in California,” highlights how these programs are expanding. “Four local governments, including San Francisco’s, have adopted similar laws, and at least a dozen more are considering doing the same,” they write. And an article in the Washington Examiner, “Supreme Court could weigh local mandates on drug makers,” have pointed out how business groups have also been weighting in. “Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have filed briefs supporting the drugmakers' case. They say the new disposal programs create a new precedent whereby localities could require manufacturers of other products like tires, batteries or mattresses to do the same,” the article notes.

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Topics: Safe Drug Disposal